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 WASHINGTON (AP) -Here's how out of sorts the Philadelphia Phillies are: Staff ace Brett Myers' surprising shift to the bullpen was almost an afterthought Wednesday.
The Phillies entered Wednesday night's game against the Washington Nationals with the NL's worst record at 3-9, and the main topic of pregame conversation was manager Charlie Manuel's argument with a radio host the day before.
At first, Manuel said he just wanted to move on and not discuss his exchange with WIP-AM's Howard Eskin. But eventually the manager did talk about it, saying: ``I got questioned (about) who I was as a man, and how tough I am.''
So Manuel sought to make clear that he's capable of confronting players, that there's more to him than the mild-mannered man most are familiar with, a persona he called, ``Take-It-Easy Charlie, Laid-Back Charlie, Uncle Charlie, Grandpa Charlie.''
``When I first started managing this game, I used to grab guys and slam them on the wall and everything. Really. That was no problem. I had no problem doing that,'' Manuel said. ``I'm older now, and things like that. I'm 63 years old, but at the same time I've still got that same passion. I've still got that same fire.''
It wasn't until nearly 10 minutes into his session with reporters that Manuel revealed the sort of drastic personnel move that's made by a team searching for answers - switching Myers from starting pitcher to a setup role in the bullpen and putting Jon Lieber in the rotation.
Manuel said neither his flare-up with Eskin nor the Myers-Lieber switch - a flip-flop intended to bolster the team's shaky bullpen - stemmed directly from the team's disappointing start to the season.
This was, after all, the club whose shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, proclaimed it was the team to beat in the NL East. And Myers, for one, was talking as if that's still how the players feel.
``I'm not going to be selfish about it. If this is what it takes to get us to the playoffs, then that's what I'm going to do,'' Myers said. ``They left it up to me. They left it as my decision, and I told them that whatever is going to help the team, I'm going to do.''
Myers, 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA in three starts this season, will mostly be used in the seventh or eighth innings. The right-hander also could see work as a closer when Tom Gordon isn't available, Manuel said.
``Now that the season has started and we started seeing what we had and kind of how our bullpen looks, we figure that Myers gives us a bigger arm at the back end of our bullpen,'' Manuel said. ``We think Myers will, over the course of the year, get in 65-70 games, probably. As a starter, it would be 35.''
Myers led the Phillies in wins (12), ERA (3.91), starts (31) innings (198) and strikeouts (189) in 2006, then signed a $25.75 million, three-year contract during the offseason.
Lieber expressed disappointment when, late in spring training, the Phillies said he'd begin the season as a reliever instead of a starter. He's allowed three runs in 2 1-3 innings this season out of the bullpen.
---
AP freelance writer Rich Campbell contributed to this report.
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